Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde on Wednesday offered a different explanation as to the bricks of cocaine that washed ashore the eastern seaboard, directly contradicting an earlier statement of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency that the shipments confirmed the presence of the Colombian drug cartel in the country
Albayalde said the bricks of cocaine that washed ashore the eastern seaboard may have drifted off from the waters of Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, after the vessel carrying them capsized while on the way to Australia.
He noted that his counterpart from the Australian Federal Police had pointed to similar recoveries of cocaine bricks in the Solomon Islands in June and September last year.
On Tuesday, however, PDEA chief Aaron Aquino affirmed a previous statement by the President that the cocaine bricks may have come from the Medellin group of Colombia.
“The President is right in saying the Colombian drug cartel
has already penetrated the Philippines based on the representative samples we got in Matnog, Sorsogon in 2018. It showed the drugs came from Colombia,” Aquino said.
Albayalde on Wednesday said they are now coordinating with Australian authorities to determine the “signature” of the cocaine to determine if this is the same as those being used by drug dependents in Australia.
READ: Colombian drug cartel active in PH, PDEA says
“I talked with my Australian counterpart earlier. It seems these more than 100 kilos of cocaine, 111 kilos to be exact, were recovered from the eastern seaboard of our country. It looks like these came somewhere from the Pacific Ocean and these are not for delivery in the Philippines,” Albayalde told reporters after a meeting with officials from the Australian Federal Police during the launch of the Philippine Internet Crimes Against Children Center at the police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Albayalde said Australian authorities believe that a yacht carrying the contraband might have met an accident while repacking the cocaine or those who picked them up in the high seas might have deliberately dumped them after being chased by Coast Guard or Navy vessels.
Albayalde said that based on the ranking of cocaine use in the world, the Philippines is number 14 from the bottom of the list.
“So I don’t think we have a market for those kilos of cocaine which have been so far recovered. Accordingly, the probability is that they were supposed to be delivered to Australia because the market is good there for cocaine,” he added.
Both Philippine and Australian authorities believe that the cocaine bricks that were recovered in the past few weeks in Luzon and Mindanao are connected to the 500 kilos of cocaine bricks that were recovered in Papua New Guinea last year.
Since Feb. 10, more than 100 kilos of cocaine worth P871 million have been recovered so far on the shorelines or off the waters of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Island, Davao Oriental, Quezon, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur and Aurora.
The PNP is awaiting the results of the laboratory examinations that would be done by their Australian counterparts on the seized cocaine blocks.
READ: ‘International syndicates behind cocaine blocks found in PH’
“We will be giving specimen to our Australian counterparts because they told us that they can determine the signature on where they were manufactured because according to them, cocaine has also some sort of a DNA that could determine where it was made and where it came from,” said Albayalde.
The PNP and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said that only 2 to 3 percent of drug users in the country are into cocaine as compared to those who are using shabu, marijuana or ecstasy.
With a length of 36,289 kilometers, the Philippine coastline is one of the longest in the world.
While admitting that it is difficult to guard Philippine shores, PNP Maritime Group Director, Chief Supt. Rodelio Jocson said they already increased patrol security as soon as the floating cocaine were found.
READ: ‘Dangerous years ahead in drug war’
The PNP also acquired the 46 high speed tactical watercraft, which will help them in patrolling the seas. This is scheduled to be delivered before the year ends.
The Commission on Human Rights, meanwhile, said it supports the eradication of the illegal drug trade, but this should not be at the expense of people’s lives, and must be carried out within the bounds of the law.
“We hope that the words of the President will not be construed as a license to circumvent due process but will instead serve as a directive to firmly resolve the drug problem in accordance with Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002,” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia .
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to wipe out drug pushers and users in Talisay City, Cebu, which he described as a drug haven. With Rio N. Araja and PNA